The foreign fighter and Iranian myths blew up in the Bush Administration’s face in a big way this week. Despite repeated declarations over the last year that the violence racking Iraq is the result of Al Qaeda operations and influence and Iranian meddling, the facts on the ground do not support these claims. The U.S. Army confirmed this week that the foreign fighters constitute a small fraction of the insurgent activity and that most of insurgent activity is the handiwork of Iraqi Sunnis. The New York Time’s Richard Oppel wrote:
The . . . insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni. American officials now estimate that the flow of foreign fighters was 80 to 110 per month during the first half of this year and about 60 per month during the summer. The numbers fell sharply in October to no more than 40, partly as a result of the Sinjar raid, the American officials say.Oppel’s article contains three critical facts:
Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials. . . .For years the Bush Administration has insisted that there was a direct operational tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Once Saddam was no longer around, Bush and company continued to cite Al Qaeda as the culprit behind most of the murder and mayhem in Iraq. You know, fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here.And in September 2006 President Bush added the bogeyman of Iran to his litany of terrorism, Al Qaeda, and Iraq (see Bush’s speech, September 6, 2006) . Just last July George Bush, during a speech at the National War College, mentioned al-Qaeda 27 times.:
In contrast to the comparatively small number of foreigners, more than 25,000 inmates are in American detention centers in Iraq. Of those, only about 290, or some 1.2 percent, are foreigners, military officials say. . . .
About four out of every five detainees in American detention centers are Sunni Arab, even though Sunni Arabs make up just one-fifth of Iraq’s population. All of the foreign fighters listed on the materials found near Sinjar, excluding two from France, also came from countries that are predominantly Sunni.
McClatchy’s Jonathan Landley reports, “Bush called al-Qaeda in Iraq the perpetrator of the worst violence racking that country and said it was the same group that carried out the 9/11 attacks.”
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I understand the politics of terrorism and the need to trot out Al Qaeda as the ultimate threat in order to rally public support. But, if we are honest with ourselves, it is a very anemic threat. Remember the Cold War? By God we knew how to scare the bejesus out of folks back when we faced the threat of International Communism. Those were the good old days of fear mongering. The “reds” were seeking world domination. They hated God. They didn’t believe in God. I guess you can’t hate what doesn’t exist.Oh, did I mention nukes, naval armadas, nuclear subs, million man armies, long range bombers, and sleeper agents.
Whoops. Forgot about the KGB, the GRU, and their varied success in convincing Americans to betray their country for the great good of helping the Commies take over the world.Those were the good old days. Now? We have the Global Caliphate that the crafty old Al Qaeda is Allah bent on establishing. Global Islamic rule. Sound familiar? I like to think of it as Lenin on crack with a religious bent.Violence in Iraq? Al Qaeda of course. Why should we let the fact that the so-called leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq last year — Abu Musab Al Zarqawi — was too extreme for even Bin Laden and his deputy, Zawahiri? We should not worry about truth when we are committed to a propaganda message whose central theme is feeding the American public a steady diet of fear.Some in the press are complicit in this charade. Note a story in Reuter’s today hyping the Al Qaeda threat:
Three suspected al Qaeda militants, including two sisters, beheaded their uncle and his wife, forcing the couple’s children to watch, Iraqi police said on Friday.Let me see if I got this straight. Two nieces, who are apparently religious fanatics, murder their aunt and uncle. But they are Al Qaeda? Really? Did they have a membership card? A video of them swearying bayat to Bin Laden? No and no. It would appear that Al Qaeda now is a convenient shorthand for a muslim extremist.Let’s just act like George Bush and label all violence as Al Qaeda. Let’s continue to remind folks that Al Qaeda attacked us on 9-11. Let’s just hype the shit out of Al Qaeda. Make them 10 feet tall, with a massive global network capable of maintaining sleeper cells intact in the United States, and just biding their time to launch a nuclear strike. Make sure we are so afraid that we will lose any ability to do critical thinking and will willingly surrender our civil liberties just to be safe from the threat of the Global Caliphate.
The militants considered that school guard Youssef al-Hayali was an infidel because he did not pray and wore western-style trousers, they told police interrogators after being arrested in Diyala province northwest of Baghdad.
Or, here’s an alternative. Let’s recognize that the threat posed by Islamic extremists, while real and potentially lethal, is something we can contain without losing our minds, our lives, and our freedoms. But to take that approach requires we rediscover reason and analysis. Oppel’s fine article is a step in that direction.
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